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Project Island Song rat eradication underway

Date:  03 June 2009

Eradicating rats from Ipipiri in the eastern Bay of Islands has begun with an aerial drop of brodifacoum poison.

The drop took place yesterday and was the first step in Project Island Song, a major community-driven initiative to restore native biodiversity in the area.

A Skyworks helicopter hovers while being loaded with the rodent poison brodifacoum.
A Skyworks helicopter hovers while
being loaded with the rodent poison

“The weather was just what we needed for a safe and efficient drop,” said eradication project manager, Adrian Walker, of the Department of Conservation (DOC). About fifty staff and volunteers, four DOC boats and two Skyworks helicopters were involved in the drop to ensure coverage of the 90 islands and rock stacks in the bay.

Project Island Song is a vision shared by Guardians of the Bay of Islands Inc, Patukeha, Ngati Kuta (the resident hapu at Rawhiti) and DOC. The Northland Regional Council, Eastern Bay of Islands Preservation Society, NZ Kiwi Foundation, private land owners and tourism operators also support the project.

The chair of the Guardians group, Fleur Corbett, said the group was relieved the eradication was finally underway after five years of planning, consultation and establishment.

“We have great confidence in its success, especially as DOC is the world leader in pest eradication on islands. On behalf of the Guardians, I would like to say a huge thank you to DOC management and staff, especially to Adrian Walker for his meticulous planning, and to all the willing volunteers who have picked up seaweed and baits. It is very heartening to have such enthusiasm for the project.”

All affected landowners and occupiers were contacted to ensure they were aware of yesterday’s drop, Mr Walker said.

“We worked together to put the necessary steps in place to protect themselves, their animals and water supplies. All tour operators and concessionaires in the area were notified and medical centres and vets were also advised.”

The department had met all requirements of the resource consent and notification will be ongoing throughout the operation.

“The bait was applied by helicopters using GPS technology to ensure accuracy and no gaps, so that every rat has a chance to find bait. Signs advising the islands are closed for 48 hours are in place for both bait drops and staff and volunteers will remove pellets from beaches to protect dotterels.”

Mr Walker said the bait was a 10mm cereal-based pellets, dyed green to deter birds from eating it.

The next drop will be in about 14 days with the same contact system in place.

“Project Island Song has had amazing support from both island and mainland landowners and the community generally,” Mr Walker added. “They are actively involved in stoat trapping, beach sweeping, and the on-going mainland pest control project at Rawhiti, which is essential to keep the islands pest-free.”

Tourist operators had been briefed on the project and were very supportive of ongoing biosecurity, as were boaties who have been asked to help by keeping moored and trailer boats free of rodents.

Ms Corbett said the Guardians were now ready to move to the next stage of the project, restoring the flora and fauna of the islands and making sure they remained predator free.

“Everyone is welcome to join Project Island Song and to share and enjoy the rewards and opportunities it will bring.”